Porto-based textile artist Vanessa Barragão creates three-dimensional textile art inspired by the Earth’s coral reef ecosystem. The artist’s textured woolen rugs, tapestries, and wall hangings are made using various hand-crafted, fiber art techniques, including latch hooking, crochet, weaving, knitting, basketry, and felt. They mimic the organic textures, shapes, and structures found in the diverse world of underwater flora and fauna, such as fringing reefs and barnacles.
Barragão began exploring different textile techniques with wool while studying for a masters degree in Fashion Design. “I fell in love with this process and it motivated me to continue and start something new,” she fondly recalls. “I love design, arts, textiles, sculpture and the ocean! So I started making the tapestries inspired by the sea and the corals.” Barragão’s tactile woolen surfaces depict the vast range of textures and colors found in both healthy, and dying reefs.
In some cases, the artist’s plush textile reefs are made with richly colored wool, in blue, green, and red hues. However, other pieces are made from wool and botanical silk in a restricted, muted color palette of white, cream, and light beige. These pieces draw attention to the current issue of climate change and its impact on the world’s coral reefs. Sadly, due to rising ocean temperatures, more and more reef ecosystems are affected by coral bleaching, which seriously diminishes their chance of long-term survival.
Barragão has exhibited her work in various exhibitions around the world, including Milan Design Week in 2017, where she showcased her beautiful, 15ft-diameter, hand-tufted Earth Rug.